The Blackhawks Way
The Colorado Avalanche will take on the Chicago Blackhawks again tonight, this time on the road. Chicago continues to be a force in the Western Conference. However, after their Stanley Cup Championship two years ago, the team had to lose a number of key contributors including: Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and goalie Antti Niemi.
This was due in large part to the front loaded contract of Marian Hossa, combined with the NHL Salary Cap. While I do not believe the Blackhawks would have won the cup without Hossa, was it worth having to sacrificing strong pieces of the team the summer after?
For the Blackhawks, yes. They had not won the Stanley since 1961 and Hossa was the best way to change their fortune. They had a strong young core that still includes Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp but were not going to make it through the rough Western Conference without help. The Blackhawks have proven that they had depth in the organization to compete in the future, just not at the same level.
Additionally, the Blackhawks relied heavily on luck. Their gamble in achieving a Stanley Cup before they had to dismantle the team paid off. However, if Hossa or Kane or Toews had been injured and the team had met its match, Chicago fans would be furious at the organization for sacrificing so much for one player.
This is a warning for teams looking to do the same thing. In the world of sports, no championship is guaranteed. For young teams, sacrificing the franchise’s future for one year may not be a risk worth taking. If it fails, the team is left in the middle of the league once again.
Even if it succeeds, is it a risk worth taking? The Avalanche, a young team that is just beginning to develop a core with potential, may have the opportunity to make a similar move over the next few years. They have won two Stanley Cups in the past twenty years and have shown what happens if a team has over.
However, it would be much more beneficial to the franchise to make small moves and build from within for the long term than make a homerun move. The Avalanche tried such a homerun strategy when they signed Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya for the 2003-2004 campaign. The team that included Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Rob Blake and Adam Foote exited in the second round.
If the price is a right, a team can always be better but making big moves for a championship often ends in disaster. Just ask last years New Jersey Devils, they were suiting up 19 guys for several games in an effort to make up for Ilya Kovalchuk’s monster contract.